Lamplighter delivers a treat for fans of a whodunnit

Photo by Daren Scott From left to right, Veronica Craye (Sara Bostrand) is an unexpected house guest as she meets Lady Angkatell (Connie Terwilliger), Gerda Cristow (Lucinda Moaney) and Midge (Michelle Burkart).

From the best selling novelist in history, outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare, Lamplighters Community Theatre delivers a stellar performance of Agatha Christie’s “The Hollow.” First written by Christie by request of Queen Mary in 1951, this classic brings much more on stage than in her book of the same name, with a subtle humor that is not seen in her novel writing.

Lamplighters did a phenomenal job casting this large ensemble for a small theater, and unless you are a Christie fan (and know the ending), kept the audience guessing until the very end of who killed Dr. John Cristow (Wilson Adam Schooley). A three-hour play, the first act set the scene for his murder, and there isn’t a single player in the company who is not a suspect.

Photo by Daren Scott
Dr. John Cristow (Wilson Adam Schooley) is the man you love to hate and his murder brings the Angkatell family and staff to the center of suspicion in Agatha Christie’s “The Hollow.”

Cristow is married, has a mistress and an old Hollywood lover Veronica Craye (Sara Bostrand) who broke his heart years before. He appears after moving next store to the Angkatell country estate in England.

Schooley performs the womanizing playboy, so when he is murdered, it is almost a joyous occasion. He became the perfect man to hate and his fate seemed fitting with his actions. His mistress, Henrietta Angkatell (Lizette Kent Allen) is devoted to Cristow from their childhood growing up at the Angkatell estate.

Romantically involved for six months behind the back of his wife Gerda Cristow (Lucinda Moaney) who undoubtably has no sense of self and depends on her husband for everything, the love triangle is an important plot in the play of one man and the affection of three women in his life.

What follows is a plethora of unanswered questions as Inspector Colquhoun (Bud Emerson) and his quirky sidekick detective Sergeant Penny (Richard Cajka) attempt to find the murderer as they quarantine the entire family to the estate. Everyone in the house is a suspect and there are plenty of motives that place everyone in the spotlight as they decipher clues. Even the butler, Gudgeion (D. Kevin McGuiness) is not out of the picture of suspects due to his undying devotion to Lady Angkatell.

Lady Angkatell (Connie Terwilliger) is a phenomenal character who cannot control her words or remember details and becomes a lead suspect just because of the eccentric behavior of the elite Angkatell family.

Terwilliger also brings the majority of the humor to this play with her scatterbrained lines and inability to censor her feelings. She embodied this character with what seemed such ease, that as outlandish as she was, she was truly believable.

There are several levels to these cousins that marry. Inheriting the Angkatell estate and visiting the country estate for this family reunion, Edward Angkatell (Frank Godinez) is an insecure dullard with a long-time affection for Henrietta, and refuses to see the undeniable love of his childhood friend (not a pure Angkatell) Midge (Michelle Burkart), bringing another tryst of romantic interests that places everyone under suspicion.

Bostrand’s performance of Veronica Craye was so over the top, it was just enough to bring the Hollywood diva to life and make her a prime suspect in killing Cristow. After all the years apart, she purposefully moves next door just to reunite with him and ultimately is betrayed by him.

Director Mark Loveless and producers Dorothy Ann Courtney and Heather Kenney do a remarkable job in bringing this classic to life, capturing the best of Christie’s ability to keep people on the edge and guessing from the beginning to the end of production. For such a large company in a small theatre, set and lighting designer Dale Goodman did a wonderful job of portraying a large country estate from the set of a one room play.

Whodunnit? That is something that you will have to find out for yourself. “The Hollow” is worth every minute in this production, and for those who are not familiar with Agatha Christie’s work, this is the perfect play to introduce you to this iconic mystery writer.

Agatha Christie’s “The Hollow” is playing through March 19 at the Lamplighters Community Theatre in La Mesa. Visit lamplighterslamesa for tickets or more information.

Lamplighter delivers a treat for fans of a whodunnit